Jul 28, 2014
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Stanford Docs: Turn in Your Old Pills

Keeping expired pharmaceutical drugs is a danger to society, say doctors.

Stanford Docs: Turn in Your Old Pills


Got a 10-year old bottle of Prozac? Now’s your chance to get rid of it, without flushing it down the toilet.

Doctors from Stanford Hospital’s Pain Management Division are urging Palo Altans to help prevent pill abuse and theft by getting rid of expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. The move comes in support of National Take Back Prescriptions Drugs Day, which is Saturday, April 28.

There are numerous “Take Back” sites around the Bay Area and close to Palo Alto.

“Storing unwanted prescription drugs at home or disposing of them in the trash or down the toilet may seem harmless, but the reality is that by doing so you could be putting the health of your family at risk and potentially releasing hazardous chemicals into our environment,” said Sean Mackey, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Pain Management Division at Stanford Hospital and associate professor of anesthesia at Stanford University School of Medicine. “I urge all patients to put safety first by taking their old drugs to their nearest collection site.”

The Take Back sites offer people a no-questions-asked opportunity to dispose of their old drugs. Doing so helps address what Stanford doctors call a vital public safety and health issue.

“Teenagers and young adults are some of the most vulnerable to the dangers of drug abuse”, said Meredith Barad, M.D., a Stanford Pain Management physician. “By taking unused prescription drugs out of the medicine cabinets, we are reducing exposure and thereby reducing the risks of addiction.”

According to the DEA, Americans participating in three previous Take-Back Days turned in nearly a million pounds—almost 500 tons—of prescription drugs at over 5,300 sites operated by more than 4,000 of the DEA’s state and local law enforcement partners.

Medicines that sit in home cabinets are sometimes susceptible to theft, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are high, according to the DEA. Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

“Prescription drug abuse is a major epidemic across the country and DEA is committed to reducing the potential for misuse by providing a safe and secure method for Americans to clean out their medicine cabinets and properly dispose of unwanted, unneeded, or expired medications,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart in a release. “Americans responded overwhelmingly to DEA’s first three Take-Back Day events, disposing of nearly 500 tons of medication in the past two years.  This nationwide community effort prevents home medicine cabinets from becoming sources of dangerous – and even deadly – drugs."

Here are four drop-off sites nearby that will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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